Rapid change is all around us. Not long ago we had our first family meal together for months in the garden of a local restaurant. We were in a new six seater wooden pod with comfortable cushions and that all important heater. Many of the staff were adjusting to new ways of working. The old has gone! Up and down the country restaurants and pubs were finding new ways to attract customers. They offered take aways and eat at home experiences. Covid has triggered fresh ways of thinking, the more robust and creative the better. Indeed, the UK’s response to Covid, whilst sometimes slow showed a world leading creativity and commitment with its vaccination process. Thinking differently has become a critical skill. We have seen “different thinking” in many churches – especially around reaching a “locked down community”. They have revolutionised their Sunday service and other interactions. My church did a year after lockdown review and found we had used 360 different people on social media in the service, in a series of reflections on the Psalms, in prayers, in work with our children. There have been moves in many places to collaborate and deliver food to people in need and provide financial advice, bereavement support has grown. Fresh thinking has enabled new ways of being church.
THE SPIRITUAL ENTREPRENEUR
So many leaders are exhausted and worried about what happens next. We want to encourage you – look at the changes that have already happened, they demonstrate a new capacity. One of the key features of Covid so far is our partnership with God, He is not thrown by Covid, He has a good plan and purpose. Where He is shaking up, making things new, we want to be with Him. The spiritual entrepreneur thrives in challenging times. A Christian bakery near us sent out pictures of delicious and eye catching cakes and pastries on social media and delivered them in well presented boxes. From being dependent on their shop front they suddenly found a much bigger potential market of people who desired their cakes. Of course, businesses will have tried some things that bombed, but that is a characteristic of the modern entrepreneur you keep trying things out, you get feedback, you look at the costs, you look at your capacity to meet demand. You try again. So, one of the big questions for churches and Christian organisations is – what is your market? Alan Platt is a man who completely turned his church in Pretoria, South Africa around. He used to think his church was called to attract people into the building where they would hear the gospel preached. “We had to shift from the idea that we are simply pastoring a church to the thought that we are actually pastoring a community. God’s call is for us to go beyond church growth and settle for nothing short of our communities reflecting in various ways the presence of Christ” Alan talks about every member of his church having a call and ministry. His is a sending out church into the workplace, schools and communities. The presence of God brings shalom, to a world that desperately needs it.
ADAPTING YOUR LEADERSHIP
Leadership is changing. We have an old model of the hero leader, they speak with passion, they get things done, they breakthrough barriers, they carry the burdens on their broad shoulders. But increasingly leadership is evaluated by its impact. One person being a hero is not as powerful as leading and releasing one hundred heroes. Today’s Leaders obsess with enabling the people around them to flourish. In church we are seeing refreshed thinking about our call and ministry. Is it about Sunday services or Tuesday’s impact? On Tuesday the church is found in homes, offices, shops, foodbanks, schools, hospitals etc. Today’s challenge is “how do we equip the saints to flourish wherever God sends them”. Alan Scott shows this at work in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. The church found a passion to bless and impact the local community and grew rapidly. God had prepared good works for them to do, just as he is preparing good works in many, many places. He says there are good works, “hidden in the heart of your community that will only be released when you come along and align yourself with them. These are families without purpose, marriages without passion, businesses without direction, communities without hope needing to be reminded of their design.” Here is a model of the new leadership needed. We will look at it in detail below

Listen

Post pandemic leaders need to be more deliberate about listening. Covid impacted our listening. Initially with more people working from home there were less informal conversations, less checking on “how are you?”, “how are you feeling?”. This led to a greater anxiety, across work, schools and communities because we did not feel listened to. Many organisations recognised that listening was vital and found new ways to catch up, to socialise, to respect and honour the fact people were working whilst monitoring their children and that many people were lonely. In church the same issues arise and a spiritual entrepreneur needs to invest time in triple listening. Firstly, we hear the wider community through our church members – how is the community feeling? What are their concerns? What are the hurts, needs and issues of our colleagues and neighbours? Situations are changing – we need great listening if we are to have new thinking. Secondly we recognise that the church itself is a thriving community and we need to find new ways to listen, to reach out to the isolated and encourage people under a range of heavy pressures. We need to hear how people are flourishing, where we are seeing God at work. The third element of listening is being more deliberate about listening to God. What is His heart? What is His purpose? What is new? What needs to be discarded? As we listen to God more deeply this releases shalom – the deep peace that comes from knowing we stand in God’s great purpose for us. That shalom changes how we impact the world. The more we sense God’s new purpose the more panic, uncertainty and anxiety diminish. So, leaders need to role model this but also equip every member of the church to listen well to God’s personal call and purpose for them.

vision

Listening leads to vision. Vision gives reassurance, in stormy seas it helps us look beyond the waves and focus on our destination. Leaders are vision sharers, they ensure the vision remains clear, and understood. They keep repeating the vision so everyone can understand and apply it. Increasingly the vision is not just for church but also for our community and our impact on it. What impact are we going to have? Vision takes the principles of our faith – unity, prayer, the power of the gospel to change lives, our call to worship, our call to bless. Vision describes the impact of those principles on a changing world and changing church. Vision has three key elements. There is a clear overriding vision. It might be to go and make disciples. The second element is to look broadly at how this is applied – with our children and young people, for each of our key neighbourhoods, for the workplace, for our town and city. The third key element is how we act and here churches are discovering they cannot do it on their own. A key element of the vision is about networking and collaboration. In church the same issues arise and a spiritual entrepreneur needs to invest time in triple listening. Firstly, we hear the wider community through our church members – how is the community feeling? What are their concerns? What are the hurts, needs and issues of our colleagues and neighbours? Situations are changing – we need great listening if we are to have new thinking. Secondly we recognise that the church itself is a thriving community and we need to find new ways to listen, to reach out to the isolated and encourage people under a range of heavy pressures. We need to hear how people are flourishing, where we are seeing God at work. The third element of listening is being more deliberate about listening to God. What is His heart? What is His purpose? What is new? What needs to be discarded? As we listen to God more deeply this releases shalom – the deep peace that comes from knowing we stand in God’s great purpose for us. That shalom changes how we impact the world. The more we sense God’s new purpose the more panic, uncertainty and anxiety diminish. So, leaders need to role model this but also equip every member of the church to listen well to God’s personal call and purpose for them.
Z

Adapt

Most leaders have had to adapt their approaches in the past year. They are listening more –  engaging others and exploring new ideas. They are having those courageous conversations which start with phrases like, “I don’t know the way forward …” They are prepared to explore a wide range of possibilities. They want an environment where people flourish and so bring ideas and challenges.  They are keen to get feedback on the changes they make so they can tweak and improve them.  Astra Zeneca spotted the Covid issues quickly, they identified the needs and adapted quickly. They had robust discussions and agreed key principles around affordability and accessibility. They made themselves accountable globally to build a large scale solution.

Adapting for a spiritual entrepreneur covers three key areas.

  1. Bring clarity – what do you expect in the future? What are your priorities? What happens next? Ensure people are clear how it applies to them – not just long term but next week and next month.
  2. Disciple – this is a time for fresh discipling, or as Paul calls it – “equipping the saints for the work of ministry”. This is a key shift – renewing the Great Commission – Jesus sends us out, with all authority, to disciple others. A key element in discipling is encouraging people to flourish in their particular gifts and the places they have been called. New ministries are emerging – whether it be in building a bereavement friendly church, supporting those with anxiety in the workplace, or being a blessing in school. But there is also a new emphasis on the workplace, school and community – God has called disciples to these places – and wants them to flourish.
  3. Networking – collaborating in new ways with others in our neighbourhoods and workplaces to strengthen our impact. Networking may be with local community organisations, civic authorities, other Christians and churches. It helps us build kingdom, as we learn together, as we share best practice, strengthen our awareness, pray and as we long for other churches and organisations to flourish.

Act

The vision, listening and adapting leads to action. Easy to say, harder to do. We could be paralysed by doing too much. But look at the examples of change we have around us. The local pub acted – it decided what would have the greatest impact. It equipped its staff to deliver the change and welcome their customers in a way that meant customers would keep returning. The local hairdresser also looks at what will have the greatest impact and extends their hours to meet increased demand.

Leaders bring focus. First, they inspire people to act. Second, they help individuals get traction. Traction is that first step, the moving forward that starts to change things. Traction might be working with others or on our own. Third they celebrate change – they recognise what people are doing and encourage them to do more. In a church setting that may mean we communicate a lot more about what is going on in the places where we are having impact. Maybe (I know this is heresy!) reduced preaching and more testimony about God working in our homes, schools, businesses, hospitals – to inspire even more impact.

 Spiritual entrepreneurship is fueled by compassion. Its starting point is the awareness of how much we are loved, and how much God cares about every situation we find ourselves in. 

A CALL TO ACTION

Adapting our leadership is not easy. Reshaping our vision, listening well, adapting our approaches and moving into action all bring challenge. Making it work means personal change. Leaders are more aware that it is ok to be vulnerable, that it is wise to look for advice and ideas from others, that credibility comes when we are authentic. Here are some suggested actions

  • We can spend a lot of time thinking and praying about what must change – ensure you invest time in thinking HOW you, and the culture around you changes
  • This is a time for discussions, creativity and ideas – who will give you different perspectives?
  • Look beyond the “usual suspects” for ideas. There is a wealth of wisdom around you
Steve Botham Gather Movement
Steve was the CEO of a leadership and change consultancy and is active in building unity in the Midlands and through the Gather Movement.